As the temperature here fluctuates between 30 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit from day to day, or at least it seems to, my thoughts turn to our Samhain ritual, and all the things I need to do to get our Grove ready for it. The weather isn’t something I can do much about, and it saddens me to know that while a warmish clearish day could get us forty or more people to show up, a cold(er than usual) Saturday night with any kind of rain means we’ll be lucky to get twenty. But if we had the ritual indoors, then we’d get complaints about not being close to nature. We definitely need to find a site where we can hold the rite either indoors or outdoors depending on the weather – but of course that would be even more expensive to rent that the sites we use now. And so it goes. And we wonder why pagan leaders are collectively so prone to stress. All of the hard parts of being a minister, and almost none of the support systems that the big churches have for their clergy.
But I don’t intend this to be an “agony aunt” article, and there are plenty of things I can do to get us ready. First off this week, I got copies of Shining Lakes News to local stores Crazy Wisdom and Motte and Bailey. While we don’t get a huge turnout from either (I love Crazy Wisdom dearly, but the vast majority of the folks there are too New-Agey or too Buddhist to want to attend anything we do), it’s still good to get our info out to the community. Even if none of them show up to any of our events, we can hopefully educate them a tiny bit about who we are and what we do. (Oh, and Grove members get a ten percent discount at Motte and Bailey. I should remind people about that more often. Their sections on European history have excellent material for any student in any of ADF’s training programs.)
On the more virtual front, I’ve posted our Samhain weekend schedule on our Web site, and posted it on WitchVox and our Facebook group and various other places online. These listings, and the ones we get in the Ann Arbor Observer, are the ones that get us folks showing up, or at least e-mailing us for more info. Well, I suppose if we threw a lot of money into advertising, we’d get even more attention, but we don’t have that kind of money, and of course there’s the PR issue of not wanting to look like we’re desperate to convert people. Which we aren’t, really. Of course, my writing here about wanting lots of people to show up could be construed as desperation, which maybe it is a little. >8) But I know from thirteen and a half years in this Grove that more people almost always means a better ritual, both in the practical sense and the magico-spiritual sense. And I want our rituals to be good ones. That’s my job.
Beyond that, I know that Samhain is nearing because I’m getting more e-mail inquiries about our Grove, but this can also be super-frustrating for me because most of the senders assume that we don’t want them showing up to our ritual because rituals are private affairs and they’re outsiders and… (banging head on desk repeatedly) Would I spend this much time trying to get the word out about our Samhain ritual if I didn’t want people to be there? Do they think I’m such a sadist that I want everyone to know what a great group of pagans we are and what a great weekend of events we have going, and they can’t come? Am I Cartman from that episode of South Park where he buys the amusement park? Feh. Decades of most pagan groups being Wiccan or Wiccan-influenced has convinced too many people that rituals are secret things people do in someone’s living room and you only get to attend if you know somebody first. And no matter what I do, that’s not gonna change for another decade or two at least. I only hope that doing to work of publicizing our open rituals makes it easier for future Senior Druids in that regard.
The next big step in Samhain preparation is, of course, our liturgists’ meeting on Tuesday, where we’ll come up with the overall themes for the various rituals we’ll be doing on the 6th and 7th of November. We’ve been getting very good turnout for the last few meetings, and I’m confident that we’ll have some good, strong ideas that will make our Samhain great.
After that, I’ll need to get my own workshop ready. Yes, I probably do know enough about Hades and the other chthonic gods of ancient Greece to talk for at least half an hour, but if I really want to give them proper honor, I need to prepare notes and such.
Other that that, the only Samhain prep I’ve been doing is actually Halloween prep. I’ve got my various decorations out around the house, of course living in a basement apartment I don’t have a lot of lawn space to work with, but every window I have is now decorated! I used to put jack o’lanterns our at my door, but being in the back of the house, I quickly discovered that any pumpkin I leave there will be devoured by squirrels within an hour, since there’s no human activity to scare them off. So all carved pumpkins I’ve done since then have stayed indoors. Not showy, but I do like the smell of ’em, especially with candles in them! And roasted pumpkin seeds are one of the few foods that I can actually make well.
Oh, and there’s one more thing I need to make sure I do before the big day. I need to spend some time outside, now that the temperatures are finally cool enough that I can actually be comfortable staying out for hours at a time. And the colors have finally started changing around here, and viewed from a distance the trees are right at that balance between red/orange and green that I love so much! And if I have to suffer the stressful bits of being a Druid priest, I should get to enjoy the fun bits too!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF